Prius Personal Log  #73

August 17, 2003  -  August 24, 2003

Last Updated: Mon. 9/08/2003

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8-24-2003

Underestimating Demand.  This estimate quoted at the beginning of a newspaper article today is typical: "500,000 annual hybrid sales by 2008 and 872,000 by 2013".  They just trusted the source as if there was some solid scientific basis for the numbers.  Personally, I think taking numbers from a Magic 8-Ball would be more accurate.  That 872,000 value is only 5 percent of the current market in the United States.  How can such a profound improvement in vehicle technology expand in acceptance so little after 10 more years of availability?  Reliability of the hybrid system is already proving itself.  The next few years will fortify that.  Will so few buyers actually care?  I think that estimate is absurd.  With stability in gas supplies and low prices a thing of the past along with pollution growing worse, ignoring the benefits is crazy.  Hybrid technology will flourish, especially when people discover the variety of power/efficiency/emission configurations that are possible.  Each of the types of vehicles (Car, Truck, Minivan, SUV) to offer a hybrid system will become a popular choice.  Those sales will finally inform the other automakers that there really is strong demand.  The entire supply of Prius has always sold out, despite the fact that awareness about the technology is still low and understanding of the technology is even lower.  That should be the first clue.  Duh!

8-24-2003

 

Deception.  Someone pointed out a webpage to me today.  I obviously checked it out immediately.  It was extremely misleading.  And since it was created back in July and hasn't been updated since, I can only assume the author's intention was to deceive.  That's sad.  It mentioned the 2004 Prius.  A delivery date of August 15 was quoted.  But for a few weeks now, it has been common knowledge that deliveries begin will be October 17.  The person was upset that it was $5,000 more than the classic model.  That's just plain wrong.  The base prices of the classic & new are identical.  So you don't have to pay anymore if you don't want any of the extras.  That knowledge was available before the webpage was even created.  The interior photos weren't labeled.  So you could easily assume the person was showing the 2004, especially it was just mentioned above in text.  Seeing misleading information like that really upsets me.

8-22-2003

Perfect Timing.  The people on the West Coast that were able to pre-order a 2004 Prius are now getting their confirmation calls from Regional.  They are being told to expect delivery between mid-October and early-November.  That means the regular order people won't be getting their delivery until after that.  In other words, Toyota perfectly timed the first "available on the dealer's lot" opportunities to perfectly coincide with the 2004 Auto Show kick off the end of this year.  So the new hybrid will get a whole variety of PR all at the same time, an intentional media blitz.  Sweet!

8-22-2003

Battery-Pack Improvement.  A press release from Toyota & Panasonic was provided today.  It stated there was a breakthru with the size & power qualities of NiMH battery technology they offer.  In fact, it is now better than any other NiMH design in the world.  So big question from me is, will that technology be in the 2004 Prius or is it a step beyond the improvement the 2004 offers?  I personally think it will be in the 2004, especially based on this quote: "will begin manufacturing the battery in large quantities this summer".  It definitely follows Toyota's behavior of freaking out the competition by not only announcing a breakthru but also saying it will be available very soon.  Remember in October 1997?  Toyota shocked the world by revealing their secret project called "Prius".  No one was expecting that (especially engineers in Detroit).  But the thing that really amazed everyone was that they said it would be available for sale just 2 months later!!!  And sure enough, it was!  Japanese dealers began offering them for sale in December 1997.  Whatever the case, hybrids keep getting better. 

8-22-2003

Momentum.  There's a fundamental concept some people seem to be overlooking.  It's the fact that momentum is building.  Those that own a Prius aren't known for selling it afterward to get a traditional vehicle instead.  In fact, that's unheard of.  They hold their purchase near & dear to their heart.  A passion builds over time, so much so that not only don't they part with their Prius they actually buy a second.  That's becoming a popular theme for family owners now.  And once the technology appears in other vehicles Toyota offer, that should become even more common.  In other words, a very good reputation is being established among those that currently understand the technology.  Those that don't understand any automotive technology will become the other group that develops a passion what Prius provides.  They are the teenagers that never knew a world without internet access, cell phones, digital cameras, or DVD.  They'll look at traditional vehicles as outdated technology.  Computer control of the drive system will be a must, exactly opposite of the apprehensive attitude the previous generation has exhibited.  So naturally, without features like the 2004 Prius offers (Voice-Recognition, Bluetooth connecting, control via the Multi-Display, Smart-Entry, and Smart-Start), a vehicle will simply not be appealing.  It's only a matter of time before those groups become so big that they will be difficult to ignore.

8-21-2003

Like a Camry.  Someone actually used that comment to attempt to upset me.  How odd.  This was my response...  In what way is that bad?  Camry is the best selling midsize in the country!  There is a large number people that simply want reliable transportation that doesn't cost much to operate.  They want the ABS,  VSC, and Traction-Control to help out when the wheels slip (all a must for snow & ice driving), rather than feeling the road and having to make adjustments themselves.  And they want to hear music, not the roar of a engine.  That is the market for hybrids currently available or soon to be.  "Enthusiast" wants aren't even remotely the same.  A hybrid for those drivers would be configured entirely different.  Trying to fit them into a generic mass-market category like Camry is completely inappropriate.  Niche vehicles will always be available.  Those that desire speed & handling beyond what Camry offers will have specially adapted hybrids to choose from in the future.  But the term "high performance" will no longer be appropriate, since high efficiency and low emissions is becoming an appeal factor... something a hybrid vehicle like Camry will deliver.

8-21-2003

"I've never heard of a hybrid"  Hearing that comment made for an awkward moment.  I thought at this point everyone has heard the term "hybrid".  Naturally, many (more likely most) don't have a clue what it means, but at least you'd think that there would be some type of recognition toward it being a new technology for cars.  Apparently, that's not the case still.  So of course, that's a clear indication that the misconceptions will survive for a long time still.  Dang!

8-21-2003

Flash Flood.  There was a really, really bad flash flood yesterday.  It was in the desert, but crossed a major road.  The flow of muddy water stranded a certain white a car.  It just happened to be a Prius!  So when a news crew captured footage of the helicopter team rescuing the woman trapped inside, we got a very clear view of the hybrid buried in water.  That provided evidence to all watching that fear of getting shocked from the battery-pack wasn't a problem.  Of course, for the informed, there wasn't any need for concern anyway.  We learned that 2 years ago, in a different flash flood that caught different Prius driver off guard.

8-20-2003

Hybrids... a cop out?  Some people seem to honestly believe that progress will stop dead once the first hybrids are delivered by Detroit, that the automakers won't even try to evolve the technology any further.  Well, I've got news for those people.  They already have stopped dead.  No progress whatsoever has been made over the last 10 years.  MPG averages are actually worse.  Size of the vehicle (now that everything has grown bigger) is irrelevant.  More gas is being consumed per vehicle now than in the past.  That doesn't help the dependency problem at all.  We need to be using less.  Emissions are suffering the same way. Literally, no progress has been made.  But now Prius has come along.  It surprised the heck out of engineers when Toyota first rolled it out in Japan in 1997.  It was a fully functional model, well beyond a prototype.  It worked and was realistically affordable to build.  Detroit brushed it off.  In 2000, the upgraded model debuted here.  Detroit ignored it again.  In late 2003, sales of the next generation model will begin.  What will Detroit do?  It's clear that even more improvements are possible, that continued effort can make the technology better and better.  It is already the most clean & efficient vehicle available with enough size & power to be competitive.  How exactly is that a cop out?  The technology actually delivers as promised.

8-20-2003

Battery-Pack Aging.  Some people wonder what will happen as the battery-pack gets old.  I don't.  It's pretty easy to see (by watching the Multi-Display) that the system goes out of its way to protect the pack from ever deep discharging.  In fact, you'll see many times that the electricity is supplied by engine instead of the pack.  That means (based on lab statistics) that the pack should be capable of delivering around 10,000 full charging cycles.  So, if you were to experience a full cycle both to & from work (I don't, but we can be pessimistic for this calculation) and you worked every day of the year, you'd be able to drive with the same pack for 13.7 years.  Is that enough for you?  As further proof that the pack endures real-world requirements... did you know an owner (a cab driver in Vancouver) made it to 209,000 miles with the original pack.  (Then Toyota made him an offer to buy back the car, since it could provide a wealth of real-world data.)   Another owner (someone in IL) made it to 160,000 miles before his Prius was totaled by a deer collision.  And we now know for a fact that the pack will function perfectly with a damaged/dead module (there are 38 inside).  Some bonehead at a stereo installation shop accidentally drilled an anchor bolt for an amp right through the heavy metal casing protecting the pack an into a module itself.  If it wasn't for the Multi-Display informing the owner of the damage, he wouldn't have known.  Lastly, should you actually need to replace it, guessing the price oh-so-many years from now is even harder than guessing the price of gas.  But what we can say is that the price is going down due to larger volume production, only individual modules need to be replaced, used packs are showing up on the market now (like from the deer collision), and the pack in the 2004 has been reduced in size & modules.  In other words, it should be fairly reasonable in comparison to other late-life replacement/repairs needed in traditional vehicles.  Also, don't forget that the Planetary-CVT is built more robust and is far more simple in design that a traditional automatic transmission.  So it should last longer.  The engine doesn't get used as much either.  The motor prevents the need from ever getting the RPM high.  In fact, sometimes you can be driving down the street at 40 MPH and it won't even be running, the RPM will be zero.  That reduces wear and prevents the engine from getting super-heated.  The proof for that is in the oil.  When you change it, the stuff is still fairly clean.  That's hardly what you'd expect after 7,500 miles of use.  So basically, pack aging shouldn't be much of a concern.

8-19-2003

50.2 MPG.  This is creepy.  The last 2 tanks in a row have calculated to 50.2 MPG.  And the average for the entire month of July calculated to 50.2 MPG.  The odds of the happen are quite extreme.  But it happened.  Prius never ceases to amaze.

8-19-2003

Dang!  Just 5 minutes earlier I had the digital camera in my hand.  But no!  I put it away rather than bringing it with me when going to get gas.  And sure enough, an unexpected photo opportunity popped up.  The gas station had a big visitor stop by right after I arrived, a tanker truck.  It was very nicely designed with the "Blue Planet" logo (for the low-sulfur gas they sell) and had a large caption stating "The clean air choice" on it.  I so easily could have pulled up next to it with the Prius and got a great promo shot.  But I didn't have the camera with me.  Dang!

8-19-2003

Cargo Storage in the 2004.  Did you know if you pull the front seats all the way forward and remove the headrests you can lay the seat backs all the way back so that that they are flush with the rear seat cushion?  I've already been asked a number of times if the passenger seat can lay flat.  So I'll make sure to answer that question in the 2004 version of the Info-Sheet by including a from-the-back-with-the-hatch-open photo.  Of course, you can drive with the driver seat also down.  But it's nice to know that if you ever find yourself camping in the car because the weather got to rough for a tent... yes, that actually happened once with my Dodge Omni.  It was a hatchback too, but nowhere near as large as the 2004 Prius.

8-19-2003

53.6 MPG at 444 Miles.  That's quite impressive.  So I captured the moment... photo album 54

8-18-2003

Myths about the Battery-Pack.  "After the battery wears out, will the vehicle run on gas only mode and consume more fuel?"  Actually, the battery-pack isn't even used for highway cruising and hill climbing.  So there isn't even a concern from that perspective, despite the continued claims to the contrary.  Climbing the long 6% grade out of Duluth, Minnesota, my Prius recharged the battery-pack the entire way up at 77 MPH.  So not only didn't it need any stored energy, it actually created enough on-the-fly that extra electricity was used for replenishing the supply.  That's exactly the opposite of what people expect to happen.  The benefit of this is very, very long life for the battery-pack, since it has the ability to avoid deep-discharge events (which are what cause shorter life).  The cost is sort of like you expected, more fuel will be consumed.  But that's only with city type driving, where this is a lot of stop & slow traffic.  On the highway and hills, there won't be a difference since the battery-pack wasn't ever used in the first place.

8-17-2003

Substandard Claims.  For the longest time, an online pest that is strongly opposed to hybrids kept insisting that the 60-0 braking distance of Prius was worse than what's currently available, a step backward for safety.  So I pointed out that simply putting on a better tire, an inexpensive upgrade of less than $300, would provide an improvement.  He totally blew that response that off, since confronting me would force him to list details.  But I'm well aware of the "being vague" strategy.  So when he once again tried using the same old tired argument, I actually looked up details.  And wouldn't you know it... not only did Prius stop in a shorter distance than he was claiming, it was also a better than average result: 135 feet.  That beats the 140.1 feet average for the 9 popular similar-sized vehicles Edmunds had listed for 2000, the year Prius was introduced in the United States.  Well, you could have guessed that his response would be to ignore my findings completely.  Hmm?  Could it be that he is now struggling to find something wrong with Prius, that he fears people will eventually discover the technology really does deliver.

8-17-2003

Until the technology...  reaches a point where updates are not that frequent.  Boy, I've heard that one before!  I bought my first computer 17 years ago and have been upgrading ever since... because the updates have been coming more and more frequently, not less.  As people come to accept the differences, each upgrade will become more profound than the next.  That's exactly the opposite of settling down.  Some will crave those improvements.  Prius will always offer the bleeding-edge, it will be Toyota's premiere vehicle for high-tech goodies.  A hybrid Corolla will be just like the current Corolla with the market it serves.  It will offer a configuration of technology that will please a very large group of buyers.  That broader audience is as demanding... yet.  I wonder how long that will last.  Hmm?

 

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